February 17, 2006
Mike Davis:
Indiana coach resigns, effective at season's end. "Lame duck" is lame; he should leave now. But maybe it'll inspire the team to an emotional run.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Maybe it's a good thing this is "just" the Winter Olympics and that Lindsey Jacobellis is "just" a snowboardcross racer.

Because if what she did in her race -- pulling a hot-dog move while in the lead that cost her a gold medal -- happened in a more mainstream sport (NFL, NBA, MLB) involving a brand-name star, it would cause a hysteria among sports media members and fans so big that it might tear a hole in the universe.

Given that she is her sport's biggest star -- well on her way for an Olympic gold medal, she chose a showy move that set her back in the race -- think of the analogues across the bigger sports:

NFL: Think of Jerome Bettis running for a game-clinching Super Bowl TD in the final seconds only to try a hot-dog move, lose the ball and have the other team run the other way for a touchdown.

MLB: It's the 7th game of the World Series; two outs, down by 1, man on 2nd and 3rd and A-Rod hits a blooper -- Damon and Jeter lollygag to the next base and the outfielder throws out a prancing A-Rod at 1st to end the game.

NBA: Lakers up by 1 with three seconds to go in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and Kobe starts shimmying and dancing around when the ball is inbounded to him near his own basket and he throws up the ball in celebration, a split-second too early, and it goes in his own basket.

Perhaps in the world of snowboarding, which is based on individual expression and creativity, it's just "Lindsey being Lindsey."

After all, you can't praise the injection of excitement and creativity that snowboarding has brought to the Olympics and not take that creativity's unintended consequences of a little anarchy.

I'm not sure how fans will remember this Olympic-sized blooper, but even if it wasn't the Super Bowl or World Series, it instantly shoots up near the top of the list of Hall of Fame sports blunders.

Who's *not* NBA MVP?
Steve Nash will not be MVP, though he is arguably the most valuable player in the NBA at the break for All-Star Weekend.

Nash won't be MVP this season because the novelty -- the uniqueness -- that vaulted him to the award last season is gone.

His stats this season might be even better than last season, when he was MVP. Many experts say that he's actually more valuable this season than last. He's the center of the ESPN.com's NBA galaxy, for crying out loud.

But MVP voting seems to inflate the novelty of a breakthrough season (defined by statistics and standings). Combine that with the novelty of first-time candidacy and the snowball effect of positive publicity and it creates an "It's His Year" myopia.

The assumption is that it's a career year; no one expects it to continue. When it does, the result is this: Sustained greatness becomes devalued. A player is penalized for being too good.

It's the "Shaq Effect." In his prime, Shaq had a run of at least a half-dozen seasons where he was the most dominant player in the league. And he won exactly *one* MVP. Why? Voters expected his greatness. They took him for granted.

You don't win MVPs for fulfilling expectations. You win the award for exceeding them. The higher the expectations, the less chance you have to exceed them. The result: The best or most dominant players regularly don't win the MVP.

The same thing will happen to Nash this season. After what he did last season, what he's doing this season isn't impressive enough to move the needle like it did last year.

He's too good for MVP.

NBA All-Star Game
I hope Larry Brown, Doc Rivers and every other coach who voted in four Pistons All-Stars will be happy when they take the floor together and start playing -- ack -- defense.

We watch the NBA All-Star Game for a couple things: Sick dunks, dream teammate pairings and zero defense (except maybe a few highlight-reel swats). Hope Flip keeps that in mind when setting the rotation.

Wayne Gretzky: Won't face charges in NHL gambling scandal
"Godfather": Plushenko uses classic music to skate to gold
Michelle Kwan: No gold? No prob. Hired as Disney endorser
George Steinbrenner: Unhappy with his Yanks playing in WBC
Sosa: Agent confirms he's quitting. Yes, he's a HOF'er
Josh Paul: ALCS goat loses arb case with D-Rays. Ya think?
(But if Flip does play all 4 Pistons together with LeBron, it might be the most unstoppable NBA 5 to play together since the Dream Team. If the Pistons replaced Tayshaun Prince with LeBron, they would win 78 games.)

NBA ASG: The Comps
Dunk: Size matters! Nate Robinson's dunks will look more impressive because he's 5-foot-9, even if the dunks themselves aren't as good as say, defending champ Josh Smith's. It's the "Webb Effect."

3 Point: Mr. Clutch! As long as the clock is winding down, I'll be backing Chauncey Billups, who has emerged as the biggest big-shot maker in the NBA, and will edge NBA 3-point leader (by volume) Ray Allen.

Skills Comp: Must-see! Defending champ Steve Nash takes on LeBron and Dwyane (plus Chris Paul) in the most star-studded field for an All-Star gimmick event since the dunk contests of the late '80s. Familiar with the format, Nash should repeat.

Rookies vs. Sophs: It is Dwight Howard's world, and the rest of those rookies and sophs should be happy they're merely basking in it.

Shooting Stars 3-on-3: The best shooter in the field, current players included, might be Steve Kerr. But this is must-see for the time it takes for Magic to yell at Kobe, "Would you STOP SHOOTING SO MUCH!"

Celebrity Game: Tonight's participants are still TBA. I still have this image of Tom Cavanagh playing crazy intense defense a few years ago. Yes, that's what the Pistons 4 may look like Sunday. Enjoy. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

NBA ASG: The Shoes!
"Who are you wearing?" NBA All-Star Weekend is the Oscars Red Carpet Show for sneaker fans. Companies roll out exclusive models -- and even some debuts. Here are my Top Five to look out for this weekend:

Air Jordan XXI: The annual AJ release is the highlight. It's a simple look this year, with a cool feature where you can exchange different heel cushions. Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen will be wearing them (or "rocking them," as the kids like to say.)

Shaq Dunkman V6.2: On the other end of the price (and cool) spectrum, there is Shaq's signature shoe made for Payless, which retails for $39.99. (Yes, but will there be an appearance of the Shoe Phone?)

Converse WADE: You won't be able to see it, but Dwyane Wade's red, white and blue model will have a map of Chicago on the sock liner. If you look carefully, you might be able to see Dusty Baker plotting to wreck Carlos Zambrano's arm.

Reebok Iverson IX: Blue accents matching the East jersey is the motif, which isn't nearly as cool as the black and white version he usually wears. New parent company adidas is rebranding Reebok as a performance brand, not fashion. So maybe they'll do something to reenergize "The Pump."

Air Zoom LeBron 3: These have been out since November, but his ASG model is red and white, and he couldn't misplace them if he tried: They have "LEBRON JAMES" stenciled on the side.

Darren Rovell has a must-read (including pics!) of 11 models to watch out for. (Winners and losers coming in Monday's Quickie.)

More "signature shoes" to watch for: Air Zoom Kobe 1 (white/red); T-Mac 5 (red/gray); Garnett 3 (white with red/blue stripes). Recap Monday.

Bracket Busted!
ESPN's BracketBuster series of games between top mid-major hoops teams is a showcase for the NCAA Tournament Committee (and a boost to winners' RPIs).

But it's as much a showcase for fans looking to glean a little firsthand analysis of the low-profile teams most likely to spring upsets on your brackets this March.

You must keep an eye on the teams of the Missouri Valley Conference, which has a whopping 5 teams in the RPI Top 30. The showcase game is between two teams who have spent time in the AP Top 25: Bucknell at Northern Iowa (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The other 4 play throughout the rest of the day.

(Kyle Whelliston's breakdown of the Busted lineup is an absolute must-read if you want to understand the teams and stakes involved.)

Daytona 500
As I presume many of you are, I am NASCAR's new target fan. The casual observer of NASCAR, but hardly an expert and by no means fanatic. (But I know enough to know the story of the weekend is that they're cracking down on bumping.)

I am willing to give the sport more of a chance, however -- starting with Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 -- to see whether it can become a sport I actively follow. (Or follow more.)

For NASCAR to grow, reaching casual fans who traditionally follow the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA, college) must be a priority. Presumably, reaching fans like us are the reason they made a deal with ESPN.

(And while you're at it, if you haven't read "Sunday Money," by Jeff MacGregor, it is fascinating -- the best book about NASCAR ever written and the perfect primer for the casual fan trying to figure it all out.)

"Knight School"
In college, I wrote a paper about walk-on athletes, and I remember it seeming a lot more hopeful than the hell-arity I presume Bobby Knight puts his walk-on wannabes through during the new season of "Knight School." (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

I couldn't imagine letting my kid play for Knight (sorry, "Coach Knight") as a recruited scholarship athlete, let alone volunteering to be his bucket boy as a walk-on.

(Now there's a show I'd like to see: "Bucket Boy: The Search for Mark Cuban's New Phil Jackson." Wait, that was "The Benefactor.")

Meanwhile, there's a new unauthorized biography of Knight out (called, intuitively enough, "Bob Knight: The Unauthorized Biography"). Enjoy. It will confirm much of what you already felt about the man.

Albert Belle:
Former baseball All-Star arrested and charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
NBA All-Star Game
Page 2 Index
NBA Midseason Awards
MVP: LeBron James
Best of Kobe and Nash
Rookie: Chris Paul
Bugs are playoff team!
Coach: Avery Johnson
Got Mavs to play D
Defense: S. Marion
Top 15 in blocks, steals
Fans: Oklahoma City
OKC is big-league town

With its wild success as temporary hosts of the NBA's Hornets, Oklahoma City is making a play for MLB's Marlins. Can't deny OKC fan quality.

Daunte Culpepper says he's focused on a Vikings comeback, not trade rumors. Someone needs to tell him that they're better off trading him.

More Daytona: Jeff Gordon and Elliott Sadler win the twin Daytona Duels, the primer that helps round out the field. Gordon will start No. 2.

Kudos to Miami and Oklahoma, who agreed to play a CFB home-and-home series in in 2007 and 2009. Mark 'em down now as among the games of the year.

More Air Jordan: As Rovell reported earlier this week, Jordan is having a charity auction of every AJ edition, signed by MJ. Bank-breaker.

One of the biggest stories of the Olympics is the low TV ratings, but hold your criticism until after women's figure skating turn next week.

I got that new Gillette Fusion Power Razor for my birthday (by request!) and as someone who's had to shave since junior high, I was impressed.

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